The Polearm: A Medieval Marvel

Imagine you’re a knight in shining armor, riding into battle during the Middle Ages. Among the many weapons you could choose, one stands out for its versatility and reach: the polearm. But what exactly is a polearm, and why was it so important in medieval times? Let’s dive into the world of this fascinating weapon.

What is a Polearm?

A polearm is a type of weapon that features a long shaft, usually made of wood, with a metal blade or head attached to the end. The shaft could be as long as 6 to 12 feet, giving the warrior a significant reach. This made the polearm perfect for both attacking and defending in battle.

Types of Medieval Polearms

There are several types of polearms, each with its own unique design and purpose. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

  1. Spear: One of the simplest and oldest polearms, the spear has a sharp, pointed head. It was used for thrusting at enemies from a distance.
  2. Halberd: This weapon combines an axe blade, a spike, and a hook. The axe blade was used for cutting, the spike for thrusting, and the hook for pulling riders off horses.
  3. Glaive: The glaive has a single-edged blade on the end of the pole. It looks like a long knife or sword on a stick and was used for slashing and cutting.
  4. Billhook: The billhook has a curved blade with a sharp point and sometimes a spike on the back. It was used for hacking and pulling, similar to the halberd.

How Long is a Polearm?

A polearm typically ranges in length from 6 to 12 feet, depending on its specific type and use. The long shaft, usually made of wood, allows the warrior to reach enemies from a distance, providing a significant advantage in both attack and defense. Some polearms, like the pike, can even be longer, extending up to 18 feet, which was especially useful in formations designed to keep cavalry at bay. The length of a polearm makes it a versatile and effective weapon on the medieval battlefield.

Why Were Polearms Popular?

Polearms were popular medieval weapons for several reasons:

  1. Reach: The long shaft allowed warriors to attack enemies from a safe distance, keeping them out of reach of swords and other short weapons.
  2. Versatility: Many polearms, like the halberd, combined different types of blades, making them useful for multiple kinds of attacks.
  3. Cost: Polearms were often cheaper to make than swords because they required less metal. The long wooden shaft could be made from readily available materials.
  4. Training: Training with a polearm was relatively straightforward. Many soldiers, especially foot soldiers, could learn to use them effectively with less training compared to more complex weapons like swords.

Polearms in Battle

In battle, polearms were incredibly effective. They were used by foot soldiers to form defensive lines called phalanxes, where soldiers would stand close together with their polearms pointing outward. This created a wall of sharp points that was difficult for enemies to break through.

Cavalry, or soldiers on horseback, also used polearms like lances. A lance is a type of spear that could be used to charge at enemies, delivering powerful thrusts with the speed and force of a horse behind it.


The polearm was a vital weapon in medieval warfare, valued for its reach, versatility, and effectiveness. Whether you were a foot soldier defending against an attack or a knight charging into battle, the polearm was a trusty companion. Understanding these weapons helps us appreciate the skill and strategy of medieval warriors who wielded them.